In November this year, the CPGB-ML was invited by our comrades in Brazil to attend the 13th congress of the PCdoB, the second-largest communist party in the western hemisphere (350,000 members, 200,000 militants) after the Cuban party (800,000 members), and one that is making a major contribution to the success of the anti-imperialist project in Latin America.
Held from 14-16 November, the congress was preceded by a two-day international seminar, which was addressed by speakers from the 50 parties that had sent fraternal delegates to São Paulo. The topic under discussion was ‘Trends of the international situation: the crisis of capitalism; the world in transition; the imperialist offensive and the resistance of the peoples and nations; the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean; internationalism and the struggle for socialism today’.
A period of retreat
Opening this seminar, PCdoB president Renato Rabelo set out the context for the discussions.
First, he pointed out the international conditions that have set the scene for communist and anti-imperialist work in recent decades: the collapse of the USSR, the temporary triumph of capitalism and consequent loss of prestige for socialism; the brutal economic crisis and consequent savage attacks on working-class people and oppressed nations; and, of course, the insatiable drive to war by crisis-ridden imperialism.
Alongside these grave difficulties for the oppressed masses, Comrade Rabelo also pointed to the attempt by US imperialism to maintain its world dominance by encircling and containing China – leading to instability in the entire Pacific region and to the threat of a major world war – and to the increasingly fierce competition between the imperialists themselves over access to sources of raw materials – something that is of particular concern to the workers, peasants and indigenous peoples of resource-rich Brazil.
Crisis brings new opportunities
And yet, despite all these difficulties, conditions for the liberation struggle are looking up. Comrade Rabelo pointed out that there is now increased potential for the fight of nations and peoples against imperialism and that we are seeing a rebirth of socialism all over the world.
There are many lessons for the international communist movement to learn from the Soviet experience, he said, but the current crisis is reconfirming the teachings of Marx and Lenin every day. The experiences of the past and existing socialist countries show that, while communism remains the ultimate goal of humanity, there is no single, universal template for the transition from capitalism to socialism.
As capitalism sinks deeper into crisis, the communists are regrouping and advancing. In the territories of the former Soviet Union, communist parties are rebuilding themselves and becoming increasingly popular. In Cuba, the state of emergency that followed the collapse of the USSR has been successfully navigated and the Cuban people are now working on advancing socialist construction once more.
In Korea, the people are also developing socialism, despite the ever-present threat of a military confrontation with the USA. China has developed to the point where it will soon be the world’s largest and most important economy. And progressive governments in Latin America are implementing popular programmes that are beginning to address the basic needs of the people.
International anti-imperialist offensive
The economic crisis, said Comrade Rabelo, is once more reinforcing Lenin’s teachings on the uneven development of capitalism – as revealed by the uneven effect of the crisis in different countries and by the increased competition between the imperialist powers themselves.
Meanwhile, the countries of the emerging economies represented by Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are using their newfound strength to try to protect themselves from the worst of the crisis. The measures they are using vary, but include such things as: taking steps to protect their national economies from imperialist domination; financing the creation and updating of essential infrastructure; and putting in place programmes of income redistribution aimed at alleviating the plight of the poorest in society.
Comrade Rabelo contrasted the rise of these developing nations with the decline in the power and influence of the imperialist countries, and in particular with the decline of the USA, which is increasingly finding that it is not in a position to dictate terms in the way it used to. Brazil, he said, was at the forefront of a movement to release the stranglehold of the imperialist financial organisations, known as the Breton Woods organisations – the World Bank, IMF etc – over the oppressed world.
To this end, he said, the PCdoB greatly values the role played by the various alliances that are aimed at limiting the domination of imperialism: the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, Latin America’s Alba union, the Brics bloc and so on.
In the last 10 years, Comrade Rabelo said, Brazil’s role internationally has been overwhelmingly progressive: it has worked to oppose war, to advance the integration of Latin America, to defend the rights of nations, and to uphold the UN charter. The PCdoB was also happy to see Brazil becoming closer to Africa, with increased trade and diplomatic links all over the continent.
In working to strengthen such continental bodies as Mercosur (a free-trade bloc of progressive Latin-American countries), Unasur (Union of South American Nations, which brings closer together the two existing blocs of Mercosur and CAN, the Andean Community of Nations) and CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), the Brazilian coalition government is striking serious blows at the foundations of imperialist exploitation in the region.
The growth of these trade and political unions is helping to give the oppressed countries of Latin America collective strength with which to undermine the power of the formerly-dominant USA. Eight years ago, for example, the US’s plan to set up a continent-wide â€˜free-tradeâ€™ bloc under its domination â€“ the FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) â€“ was defeated by a coalition of five progressive governments that included Brazil, forcing the US to make do with setting up bilateral agreements with whichever states it is still able to dominate (eg, Colombia).
In closing his speech, Comrade Rabelo stressed the strong emphasis the PCdoB places on its internationalist duty. As well as organising this international seminar, the PCdoB had hosted the São Paulo Forum of left and anti-imperialist parties of Latin America in Summer 2013 and is a regular participant in the International Meeting of the Workers and Communist Parties.
A world of struggle
During the course of a two-day discussion, comrades from communist and progressive parties all over the world emphasised and elaborated on many of the points made by Comrade Rabelo in his opening speech, and connected them to the situations in their own countries.
Some speakers outlined the specifics of the situation where they were based and described the progress made or the difficulties encountered in opposing imperialist domination there. Others focused on the present economic crisis and its roots, pointing out the inevitability of crisis and war while capitalism continues to exist.
In some parts of the world, the balance of forces at this moment are still clearly in favour of the reactionaries, with working people pressed ever harder under conditions of extreme crisis, fascism and war. In others, however, the balance has shifted in favour of the workers, and real gains can now be seen in the level of existence of the masses.
Of particular note were the great efforts that are being put in by communists and progressives all over Latin America to push forward the project of Latin-American integration, which is aimed squarely at destroying US imperialist domination and superexploitation of the continent.
Many speakers from Latin America pointed out the great role played by the Cuban revolution – both in setting an inspiring example that has acted as a beacon to the oppressed of the region, and in offering practical support and solidarity to progressive countries and movements all over the world.
The contribution of Chávez’s Venezuela was also underlined, as was the determination of the people of Latin America to sustain, deepen and emulate the progressive change that he was so instrumental in initiating. Comrade Marelis Perez, of Chávez’s PSUV party, was greeted with especially warm applause when she outlined the progress made in Venezuela and called on those present to continue the struggle for socialism.
Meanwhile, delegates from Africa, which is presently suffering greatly from war and super-exploitation, and which is still reeling from the violent overthrow of the progressive government in Libya, reported that the people’s rage is growing and that progressive movements are once again becoming more organised. And this in the face of the most fascistic repression and despite any number of brutal proxy wars being waged to facilitate the imperialist looting of the continent’s vast resources.
In Benin, for example, opposition forces are reported to be organising themselves against the foreign-backed autocracy, while the revolution in Tunisia was demonstrated to be very much alive.
Comrade Farouk Jhinaoui of the Unified Party of Tunisia (WATAD), explained how the revolutionary and patriotic forces in his country had created a popular front of 11 parties, which had been met with draconian repression by the authorities. Both his own party and the broad front had had their general secretaries murdered by the state in 2013, as the reactionaries tried desperately to stop the forces of the left coming together to mobilise the masses against imperialism.
Moving to the Middle East, Comrade Hassan Abbas of Syria’s Ba’ath Party reasserted his people’s demands for an end to outside backing of the terrorist militias currently rampaging through Syria and reminded the delegates of his government’s firm commitment to a serious national dialogue with all sections of the unarmed opposition in Syria – without external impositions or preconditions.
He pointed out that the imperialist instigators of this proxy war want to see Syria fragmented, and to replace the clear struggle of the Arab peoples against imperialism and zionism with a myriad sectarian conflicts that will result only in self-destruction for the Arab world and increased imperialist domination.
And Palestinian comrades reasserted the need for national unity and international solidarity in their struggle against the ongoing Israeli genocide of the Palestinian people.
Comrades from Europe, meanwhile, related their experiences of capitalist austerity and privatisation, and the grinding poverty and total lack of hope that are becoming the norm for many workers in countries like Portugal, Greece and Cyprus as a result of EU-imposed financial measures. Delegates from these countries were united in agreeing that no solution to these problems could be found while the imperialist EU alliance continues to exist.
Fighting for peace; upholding Marxism
Comrade Pak Kun Gwang of the Workers Party of Korea reminded the delegates that humanity everywhere wishes only for peace, and yet it is constantly forced to deal with the conflicts that are forced upon it by the imperialists. On the other hand, as Comrade Nader Alves Bujah of Palestine’s PFLP pointed out, the oppressed and working masses of the world now have a historical opportunity to create a new world, while the imperialists are weakened both economically and militarily.
Comrade Ezequiel D’Adamo of Argentina’s PCCE (Partido Comunista Congreso Extraordinario) pointed out the pivotal role played by Russia and China in foiling plans for an all-out imperialist invasion of Syria – an example of the shift in the balance of forces in the world. Latin-American unity was seen as being both a result of and a contributor towards this progressive challenge to US imperialist hegemony.
From many speeches these facts came out clearly: the world is in transition; we are living through the epoch of proletarian revolution – the era in which capitalism will ultimately give way to socialism everywhere. But socialism will not fall into our lap; it must be worked for in the teeth of bitter opposition by the imperialist exploiters, who are desperate to cling on to their wealth and power.
As Comrade Moises Carrasquilla of Panama put it: socialism did not fail when the USSR collapsed; only the men who applied it [or failed to apply it!] failed. Marxist-Leninist science, on the other hand, has been established ever-more firmly as objective fact by the events of recent history and by this latest economic crisis.
Several speakers from the oppressed countries emphasised the need for the broadest possible alliance, capable of mobilising not only workers and peasants but also students, petty-bourgeois and even radical national-bourgeois elements for the national-democratic stage of the revolution – and of uniting these various progressive movements across international boundaries in order to make them as effective as possible against their powerful enemies.
Meanwhile, having outlined the features of the present crisis, the CPGB-ML comrade reminded those present of the need for communists in the imperialist heartlands to break the connection between the left wing of imperialism (the Labour party in Britain) and the workers’ movement, and instead to firmly ally workers in their countries with the anti-imperialist fight of our brothers and sisters in the oppressed countries. For us, there can be no ‘broad alliance’ of ‘leftists’, if such an alliance is actually just a cover for tying workers to the tail of the imperialist war machine.
Our job – to fight and destroy imperialism – is the same, but communists in oppressed countries and those in the imperialist world are coming at this task from opposite directions, and so their tactics and strategy is bound to be different.
Socialism is humanity’s future
Comrade Roberto De La Cruz Huamann of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) pointed out that while the objective situation in the world is moving in our favour, with the contradictions within the imperialist system coming to a head, there is much work to be done on improving the subjective situation, which is a lack of strong parties and a strong communist movement.
Comrade Eduardo Lorier of the Communist Party of Uruguay (PCU) reminded those present that the struggle for socialism is not merely an economic one, reminding us that it has famously been dubbed as the people’s demand for both ‘bread and roses’.
Detailing the depth and severity of the economic crisis, he showed that capitalism is a block to human development and happiness, and that the contradictions inherent in the present system can only be got rid of through a social revolution. He also underlined the point made by others that the social-democratic ‘alternative’, which for a while seemed to hold out such promise, had been thoroughly exposed by the likes of Tony Blair and co.
What was clear from all the speakers was the fact that the class struggle is alive and well in every corner of the globe, and that, despite the terrible set-backs suffered by our movement after the collapse of the USSR, steps are once more being made in joining up the various struggles of the oppressed into a mighty torrent that will ultimately be unstoppable.
Many speakers made reference to the recently-celebrated 96th anniversary of the October revolution in Russia. Comrade Victor Hugo Gomez of Argentina emphasised that while advances can be lost as well as won, October still showed humanity the way forward, not only by breaking the chains of capitalist exploitation for the first time, but also by releasing the great creative power and potential of the working masses.
Meanwhile, the last words were given to delegates from the socialist governments of Cuba and Vietnam.
Comrade Nguyen Van Kien of the Vietnamese Communist Party reasserted his government’s belief that there is no other road for humanity than socialism. He also reminded the delegates of the need for socialism to provide a rising standard of life for the masses, both materially and culturally, and to uphold national independence as a prerequisite for prosperity.
The Vietnamese people had suffered incredible hardships in the course of their struggle against imperialism and for socialism, and their economy had been reduced to almost nothing. While recognising that the market will not ultimately be able to solve people’s problems, Comrade Nguyen explained that utilising elements of capitalist development in order to lay the foundations for socialist construction had been a successful strategy.
Life in Vietnam has greatly improved for the masses, with the country’s GDP rising from $86 per capita in 1986 to $1,900 in 2013. Meanwhile, food production is now booming, so that a country that formerly suffered from acute shortages, and whose people were close to starvation after the devastation of the war with the US, is now able to feed itself and even to export a surplus.
To great acclaim, Comrade Maria Antonia Ramos of the Communist Party of Cuba reaffirmed her party’s commitment to the development of Cuban socialism. She emphasised the wide collective engagement of the Cuban people in that process, stressing that the aim of Cuba’s government is to improve the productive forces and create a sustainable and prosperous society, while developing a new culture and a new mind-set that values common welfare and social justice above all.
In all, the contributions to the seminar might be summed up as follows: the workers and peasants of the world have a bright future, if only they are prepared to fight for it. We have the advantage of numbers and the weapon of Marxist science. With organisation, with international solidarity and with ideological unity, there is no force capable of stopping us!
Anti-imperialist advances in Brazil
Following the seminar, international delegates were given information on three topics of great importance for Brazil by prominent members of the PCdoB who are active in those fields. These were: the Marxist attitude to the environment and the PCdoB’s environmental policy for Brazil; the discovery and exploitation of vast new oil reserves off the coast of Brazil; and Brazil’s hosting of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
For reasons of space, we shall report on these important presentations in the next edition of Lalkar. It was evident during the proceedings of the PCdoB’s congress, however, that these issues and many others are being carefully thought through and thoroughly debated by party members from all over the country.
Alongside discussion on the need to deepen connections to the masses and widen the broad anti-imperialist alliance in the run-up to the 2014 elections in Brazil, there was much talk of the experiences of 10 years of participation by the communists in Brazil’s progressive government.
First with President Lula and now with President Dilma Rouseff, the PCdoB has played a small but significant role in Brazil’s progressive coalition government, helping to shape policies that have lifted 40 million people out of poverty and seen the building of many new universities and thousands of scholarships, so that today in Brazil children from poor families are for the first time graduating as doctors, engineers and other professionals.
Delegates at the congress were justifiably proud of these advances, but they were also clear that much more remains to be done. And this was also emphasised by Comrade Renildo Souza of the PCdoB’s central committee, when he met privately with the CPGB-ML delegate.
Comrade Souza explained that the PCdoB is pushing for a programme of structural reform in Brazil aimed at meeting more of the urgent needs of the people.
These reforms include: more state participation in the economy; a move towards an investment-focused economy (ie, one that builds infrastructure and raises the level of technological and productive forces); expanding the consumption power of the masses through income redistribution and other measures; further raising the minimum wage (which has already been rising in real as well as absolute terms over recent years); further lowering unemployment; maintaining and expanding the family credit programme, paid to mothers, which has been introduced by the progressive coalition and which guarantees a basic income to the poorest families.
The PCdoB is also proposing a reform of the tax system (ie, the introduction of progressive taxation that forces Brazil’s exploiting classes to pay a larger share of their huge incomes and profits to the state); democratisation of the media (a limit to the size or number of holdings by any one corporation or individual and the breaking up of Brazil’s huge media monopolies, along with an expansion of community radio and trade-union TV); and a programme of urban reform aimed at meeting the urgent needs of city-dwellers that were highlighted by the demonstrations this summer.
Although these demos were later hijacked by reactionary forces wanting to present the government as being deeply unpopular, the initial spark that brought many young people onto the streets in June was frustration over a lack of decent and affordable public transport in Brazil’s big cities – a problem that is exacerbated by a lack of investment in areas controlled by reactionary forces.
Anger over price hikes to bus fares by private companies was compounded by the problems of unemployment, and a shortage of decent and affordable housing, education and health care, which, while they affect all working and middle-class Brazilians to a greater or lesser degree, are disproportionately affecting the poorest.
Although the government of the country is a progressive one, reactionary forces that oppose measures to build infrastructure and redistribute wealth in ways that will improve the lives of the poor are still very strong in Brazil. In the lead-up to the 2014 elections, the neo-liberal and comprador forces are using their control of Brazil’s media in particular to create a ‘debate’ that tries to portray the Dilma government as being financially incompetent and corrupt – and to try to convince ordinary Brazilians that the problems that capitalism and imperialism create in their lives are actually a result of ‘too much state intervention’!
From the conversations and debates that our comrade witnessed and took part in, it is clear to us that the PCdoB is playing an important role both nationally and internationally in the fight against imperialism and for socialism. As well as using every opportunity to push through reforms that limit the power of imperialism to loot Brazil and that raise the living standard of the masses, they are also aware of the need to use this period of advance to raise the consciousness of the masses regarding the need for socialism as the only permanent answer to the people’s problems.
The militancy and discipline of the PCdoB comrades, their enthusiasm for their work and the high level of participation and debate that prevailed at the congress were inspiring to witness. We hope that the party will continue to grow in size and influence and wish our comrades every success in their struggle.
A luta continua!